The alarm was set for coffee and sightseeing this morning. Mark had just brewed a pot so we sat there enjoying a mug of java whilst I waited for the shower to become available. When I was clean and ready to go, Jon came walking out looking like the back end of a bus. “Morning Jon.” “Morning”. “Are you coming into town?” “No.” Didn’t even break stride, just walked into the toilet, did a piss and went back to bed. Zoli had work to do so it was just Johan, Andy and I that went off exploring. It’s not that often that we play cities I’ve never been to previously, but strangely enough Dresden was one of them. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to at the start of the tour.
We took the thirty minute walk into town. It was a grey morning but the air was just the right side of brisk. We stopped for a quick cup of coffee and a sarnie at some nondescript place just before the river across from the old town and then made our way over one of the bridges. The view from the river was quite something. It looks like the set from a gothic film, all black stone churches and grande architecture. We stood there looking at the almost overbearing buildings for a while. The ominous history of this city made me feel heavy hearted. Even though the old buildings are black due to being constructed of sandstone, it paints a picture of fire and ashes, an almost tangible image of the hell on earth the British firebombs created here. And, of course, once you walk through the inital facade you end up in an area of sterile, soulless modern buildings, which makes things even more eerie because it hammers home the fact that they really did destroy the whole fucking city. What a horrible fucking thing.
My main mission was the Bombing Memorial and walked in search of it as the other guys checked out a Lego shop in the shopping gallery. There was a church on the other side of the huge open square but I couldn’t find the memorial. After much head scratching looking at Google Maps, I happened upon it almost haphazardly. It was simply just a modest little plaque in the cobblestones. Fitting, somehow.
We all met back up, the three of us having had the morning gut shuffle as a result of the earlier coffee. Andy said he’d had to run from the Lego store as it hit him like a ton of bricks, and had a bit of a sweaty panic on since the shopping gallery was huge. When we were all back together Andy said he’d actually went inside the church I’d walked around whilst looking for the memorial, and that they’d had a photo exhibition of before, during and after the bombing, whilst some string quartet played music. I can not believe I missed that due to having my head stuck in Google Maps. I wanted to go back but we were pressed for time. Fucking bummer.
We took the tram back to the venue where Jon and Zoli were waiting for us and after loading out Johan drove the two hours to Prague. We arrived with about an hour to spare and Zoli took us to another one of his long string of vegan restaurant tips, some place called Moment in a part of town I’d never been to. In contrast to Dresden, it feels like we’ve been to Prague every summer for the last six or seven years, due to playing one of the many Czech festivals every year. As much as I love Prague, it wasn’t on our list of sightseeing priorities this tour. The drive to Budapest tomorrow is about seven hours, and with the curfew on the show tonight being ten pm, we’re playing with the idea of booking a hotel somewhere along the way, maybe drive a couple of hours tonight if we can get out of here by eleven. It feels strange to blow of Prague really, but the 007 club is up on this huge hill on the edge of town, and then the band apartment is on the outskirts on the other side of the city, but there is no safe parking there, and the recommended safe parking spot is actually in the centre, meaning a lot of faffing around after the gig. Feels easier just to drive a couple of hours and break up the journey since we won’t get much chance to do Prague tonight anyway.
The food at Moment is great anyway. Vegan fried cheese and hand cut fries. Fucking banging. Jon is not impressed though. Zoli had made him an offer, that if he tried it and honestly didn’t like it, then he would buy Jon three cans of Monster energy drinks, Lewis Hamilton edition. One of Jon’s current obsessions. Three cans of Hamilton, it was. Jon managed about half of it before lifting the remains of it on to my plate, which I happily gobbled up. It was a bit gluey in consistency, to be fair, but it tasted great, and the vegan tartar sauce was wonderful, as well as the chips. Reminded me of my mum’s, who always made the world’s best chips. The service was not quite up to the same standard as the food, though. Which annoyed Zoli. “Assholes!” It doesn’t take much to wind up in Zoli’s Asshole Book to be honest, but this time he had a point. The young woman at the till taking payment had a face like a bag of wasps. She was not impressed with Zoli’s babbling, or the fact that as he was paying he then asked for a slice of chocolate and apple cake, and then when she banged in the new amount Zoli had his back to her and dancing at us. I winked at Zoli and told him to watch my British charm in action, totally hamming up the confidence, knowing that if I pulled it off Zoli would be furious. No dice. She was indeed a miserable bastard.
We drove over to the 007. Last time I played here was actually with Zoli in 2007 on the Speedhorn, Bridge to Solace tour where we first met. He likes to point out that the night we played here was the night Liverpool got beat by Milan in the European Cup Final and he found me outside the venue, sat on a fence, sobbing. I debate that I was sobbing, but he insists. I’d had a few drinks I guess… I’m not totally confident in my denial of his story. Funny to be back here with him, anyway. We get all nostalgic about it.
It all starts with a bit of work, though. Nothing quite as boring as actually having to do some work on tour. The input jack on my amp fell inside the amp last night, leaving Johan and I, mostly Johan, although I feel my lamp work was an integral part of the operation, exploring all options of how to get thing back out. The amp casing is more secure than fucking Fort Knox so we end up fishing it out through the tiny hole that has been left in the front of the amp. It’s beyond tedious. Like Mission Impossible. One of the punks that work here even gets involved, the three of us having lengthy discussions about tactical alternatives. After an hour of this shit we finally get it back in action. By the time we’re done and I’ve restrung my SG, the doors are opening. By the time Svalbard go on an hour later the place is pretty much packed. I attempt to watch them but can’t get anywhere near the stage, and the ceiling us so low in the place that the view is just completely blocked. They sound great anyway. And the crowd seem to be well into them. Almost to the point where I think this one could be entirely theirs tonight.
I’m sat in the side stage room waiting for the Svalbard guys to pack up. Just as Serena walks in I go to congratulate her on a great show and my attention is caught by Jon’s pale spotty arse in the corner, changing his kecks for the show. He’s been sleeping all night and seems to be in a bit of a daze.
Gratefully, there is still enthusiasm enough left for us guys too. It hits me that this is a really good package, the two of us. Really compliment each other well. The sound on stage is a bit chaotic on the cramped stage with the roof right above your head. I can barely hear anything Andy and it’s one of those shows that you have to make your way through on energy alone. I’m a bit plink/plonky in the beginning, and the songs are all going a little too fast, but I settle in about halfway through and get to enjoying it as much as the crowd seem to be. I spend most of the gig on a block right on the edge of the stage, no intention of being Slash or anything, it’s just there’s a fan blowing down from the ceiling right in that spot and it’s lovely and cooling. But then as we play Scars at the end of the set I noticed two of the punks gathering together and before I know it two of them have picked me up and launched me into the crowd. I’m being passed around on a sea of hands, almost pressed up to the ceiling for what seems like an age. In the beginning I try to continue playing the song but there’s no chance. I assume that they’re going to pass me back to the stage but every time I start dropping down they lift me back up. It’s fucking crazy. I catch Andy’s glance and see his concern, but I’m give him a smile and let him know it’s okay. In truth, I’m shitting myself. That concrete floor looks hard from up here. In the end I manage to take my guitar off and hand it off and they finally deliver me back to the stage. Way too old for that shit! It’s a fun ending to the gig though.
It’s a quick load out tonight. Zoli is banging on about driving into the city to grab a Beyond Burger but I want to get going since I’m doing the drive. I’m incredibly thirsty for one of the cold cans of Gambrinus in the fridge and want to get the hotel as soon as possible and crack one open. Worst choice of city on this tour to skip an aftershow beer in lew of a drive. Svalbard have decided to join us too, since they had a whole day of Prague anyway, and Liam is really intent on us all going together to this outdoor spa in Budapest we’ve been talking about. The drive takes a little longer than two hours, and it’s repeatedly slowed down by roadworks. The hotel is decent though. Just on the outskirts of Brno. Another city I’d really like to see someday. Maybe next time.
Everyone is pretty knackered when we pull in around one am, but I'm in need of a beer and a wind down, so whilst most people go to bed, Zoli and Jon come up to mine and Johan’s room, having been chased out of theirs by Andy. We sit on the bed and play a couple of rounds of Yahtzee. Every time Jon throws a double three he comments on how it is a curse that follows him around. He says that he first began noticing it months ago, that even his regular Yahtzee friends at home noticed it. He tells us that at one point it got too much and he had to stop playing for a few months. Not to encourage Jon in this nonsense, but he throws an eerie amount of Double Threes, shaking his head and mumbling to himself every single time.